Cornhuskers' K Pat Smith takes risk, gets rewarded

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 27, 2013 at 2:36 am •  Published: December 27, 2013
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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Pat Smith calls himself a risk taker. That's how he explains why he gave up his scholarship and starting job at Western Illinois after his junior season to walk on and compete to be Nebraska's kicker for one season.

"Sometimes," Smith said, "you have to bet big to win big."

Smith will go into the Gator Bowl against Georgia on New Year's Day having made 11 of 12 field goals for the Cornhuskers, including a 42-yarder in overtime on a frosty field to beat Penn State on the road.

No doubt, Smith's move to Nebraska has been a win-win for both parties.

"I'm really happy for Pat," coach Bo Pelini said. "It's not easy to do what he did, to make that decision to come in and compete for a job."

Smith said he always envisioned kicking at the highest level of college football. He left Quincy, Ill., in 2009 to walk on at Missouri and quickly found out that he wouldn't beat out incumbent Grant Ressel.

He transferred to FCS-level Western Illinois, where he won the kicking job for the final six games in 2010. He was the Leathernecks' special teams player of the year in 2011. Last year he made all 10 of his field-goal attempts and was a finalist for the Fred Mitchell Award, which is given to the top kicker at a non-FBS school.

Having completed his undergraduate degree last year, Smith was able to use his final year of eligibility at a school that offered a graduate program Western Illinois didn't. He's scheduled to finish his master's degree in actuarial sciences at Nebraska in 2015.

"It's been such a wild ride as far as how my career has gone," Smith said. "I could talk for hours about everything I've been through with transferring multiple times, the ups and downs. I'm just happy to be here to get that opportunity."

He said he learned risk-taking from his father. Bryan Smith worked in the insurance business when he and his wife, Donna, were married. But he always had an interest in motorcycles and dreamed of owning a dealership.



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